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How To Grow Cherry Tomatoes In Desert Climates

Gardening is my second passion. I love to watch seed turn to living plant and flower evolve into an edible thing. Spring enchants me.


Cherry Tomatoes Vs. Southern Nevada Summers

Desert climates are not ideal conditions for growing anything but sunburns and sweat pools, but I have found that cherry tomatoes thrive during our growing season. I know that the minute the temperatures here in the deserts of Southern Nevada reach over 100, my tomato plants are done for. This is a fact I have learned to live with in the years I have kept a garden.

Below you will find my tips on growing these delightful tomato treasures and tips on fighting back the impending doom of the plant.

Our spring is late February to early June. We must take great care here to protect tender plants from serious sun exposure and hot, dry air. Plants must be watered frequently or they will suffer terribly. As soon as the weather turns hateful and impacts these plants, it is time to trim them back or uproot them completely and plan for fall plantings.

Our Fall temperatures are late August on into the beginning for November for most years.

Gardening in containers suits my purposes quite well as I live in a tiny apartment in the city. It is here on my patio that I grow my cherry tomatoes. These plants bush out and produce amazing clumps of tiny tomatoes while it is still cool. They will keep flowering and producing until the summer scares them away. For this small garden, cherry tomatoes are the ideal sized "maters". Without a large family to provide for -- a few tomato nuggets a week are perfect .

With container grown veggies like these cherry tomatoes I can restrict sun exposure when the time comes and try to keep them growing a little longer. I just shift them to a shadier spot. They will fade away by the middle of July so I start or buy new plants about this time. I keep them shaded until the temperatures and sun exposure are a little more comfortable.

Keeping water flowing to the roots and soil crumbly will allow a plant like a cherry tomato to do well in this region.

Photos and images are the property of M Burgess. Please, do not copy, thank you!

Diagram For Planting Containers To Retain Moisture - Layering Soil In Pots With Vermiculite And Peat Moss

container planting diagram - layering pot with gravel, sand, vermiculite, peat moss, and garden soil.

container planting diagram - layering pot with gravel, sand, vermiculite, peat moss, and garden soil.

Planting cherry tomatoes in containers for desert climates need a bit of extra help to retain moisture for tender roots. I have to have a really great soil mixture to maintain a healthy, producing plant.

By lining a pot correctly with layers of gravel, sand, vermiculite, and extra peat moss I can then fill my container up with rich gardening soil - a mixture of compost, peat moss, sharp sand, and rich loam. I leave a well in the pot for planting the cherry tomato as you will see in the next image. Adding these additional materials helps water drain and flow creating a healthy environment for delicate root systems. Without it the soil will pack down and restrict growth.

Vermiculite and peat moss will be added to my plantings this year when I change over the soil for the next season. Vermiculite retains water so that thirsty roots can access it when the soils get a little dry in between watering. The peat moss adds extra rich nutrients and also retains moisture. They also help aerate the soil preventing soil from hardening. Every now and then you will need to poke down into the dirt and create air holes. Do this carefully not to disturb roots. Stir up the top level of soil and add more if needed.

This layering technique may also be used in a ground planted garden. You will have to dig troughs to layer these materials in a similar fashion. I would recommend digging down at least 14" into your garden bed to place these materials. Once this layering is placed you may transplant your seedlings or starter plants. Mulch after planting for additional moisture retention.

When you are ready to add the gardening soil I would suggest you mix it with water ahead of time in a separate container. Then add it to your pot. It should have the same consistency as a thick cake batter.

For container garden plantings leave at least 4" at the top of the pot for water to pool and let the soil soak it in. Soil drying out and caking are a common problem with growing in pots.

Prepping Containers For Transplanting

Prepping Containers For Transplanting

Prepping Containers For Transplanting

Ideal Containers For Gardeing

An ideal pot or container for gardening in desert climates are plastic. I would not recommend them in areas that are very humid as they tend to retain moisture and cause molds and mildew. Clay or ceramic would be a better choice. The larger plastic pots are perfect for my cherry tomato plants however they may be grown in window boxes or 5 gallon buckets, too. I would not use metal containers here either because it will literally cook the plant during the hotter months. You can fry eggs here during summer on sidewalks, imagine what that heat would do to a root system!

If you choose pots that have a catch basin under them you can prevent water run off. The pots listed below are all self watering, but you will still need to check soil moisture level to maintain plant health.

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Transplanting Your Tomato Plant

From Starter Plantings

Carefully remove starter plant or seedling from its container. You will need to gently coax the roots out of most starter pots.

This is crucial to a plant's healthy start.

If you damage the roots in the beginning they may react badly and not do well. Lifting the plant out from its base, work the starter pot away from roots that may have grown through the drainage holes. For peat pots, gingerly work the bottom off of the pot being careful not to damage the roots and break the sides off of these bio-degradable containers. The pieces may be left in the container to decompose.

From here work your fingers into the root ball and tenderly spread them out a little. Shake some of the excess soil out and set it in the pit you dug for the transplant.

Plant Set In Container

Plant Set In Container

Plant Set In Container

My Best Tip For Planting Tomatoes?

By setting a tomato plant into the soil above the third tier of leaves, the roots will branch out from this section and build a stronger base for the plant.

Tomato plants need a firm stalk to support the coming fruits. Trim the leaves off if you like or leave them for compost. This is a common technique for growing tomatoes.

When the tomatoes start to set they will get top heavy and fall over if this practice is not applied.

Cover And Level The Plant With Soil

Cover And Level The Plant With Soil

Cover And Level The Plant With Soil

The Importance Of Tomato Cages - Support Growth And Heavy Branches


It is imperative you support tomatoes early with tomato cages, dowels, or stakes. Placing cages and support structures while the plant is still young gives it an opportunity to grow around the structure and allows you to guide its progress. When the tomatoes start growing the branches will weigh down the plant and cause it to lean or even break off weak branches. The vines will lean on the wired structure of the cage.

This spindly tomato plant is still alive and in the shade of my garden but has not produced any tomatoes. It came free with my pepper plants. I think it wants to be a tree! I will move it to a sunnier location when the weather cools down!

The plant in the background is my cherry tomato for 2013 spring planting and it has produced many lovely cherry sized tomatoes that were sweet and delicious. The guinea pigs and I thoroughly enjoyed our harvest about three times a week while it produced! It is the main plant featured in this article's images.

Tomato Cages - Support Structures For Tomato Plants

Plain or fancy tomato cages are irrelevant to your plant so chose the options that would work best in your planting area. Gardens for producing edible veggies can be ornate and attractive if you can work a few decorated supports into the scheme!